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Hey Negrita - Old Britannia

  by John Clarkson

published: 8 / 11 / 2005

Hey Negrita - Old Britannia
Label: Fat Fox
Format: CDS


Excellent latest single from darkly humorous London-based blues-influenced American group Hey Negrita

Hey Negrita have a tombstone humour. The London-based blues-influenced Americana trio, which consists of vocalist and guitarist Felix Bechtolsheimer, multi-instrumentalist Hugo Heiman and drummer Neil Findlay, expand to a four piece for their live shows with the induction into their line-up of plastic human skeleton Walter. Their music is engrained with a similar dark sense of satire and irony. Bechtolsheimer, who was a junkie for nearly 10 years, has taken much of the lyrical inspiration of Hey Negrita’s debut album ‘We are Catfish’ from his former addiction and the upper crust druggie crowd he used to run around with, many of whom, including ‘Tube’ and ‘Big Breakfast’ presenter Paula Yates, are now dead. ‘Old Britannia’, Hey Negrita’s third single from ‘We are Catfish’, pays testimony to those years and to some of its casualties. Far from being downbeat, however, ‘Old Britannia’ merges rollicking gusts of Heiman’s piano with tingling thrusts of choppy guitar and a feisty vocal from Bechtolsheimer. “We’ve been hanging around like this for years/so let’s drink to dead companions high”, he sings early on, capturing both the Russian Roulette lifestyle and the hedonism of his and his friends’ pasts. With a succession of snappy piano breaks from Heiman, each of which pump its tune up a further gear, ‘Old Britannia’, although never failing to acknowledge the wastefulness of that time, however, ultimately proves to be a rousing tongue-in-cheek tribute to life rather than a mournful wake for the dead. Its B sides are more sober-sided, but carry a similar sharp twist and punch. ‘Come On Jane’ finds a husky-throated, now cleaned-up Bechtolsheimer, against a shimmering backdrop of guitars and keyboards, encouraging a friend to also break her addictions and to bravely face an, in-some-ways, greyer but healthier reality without drugs (“Wake up/wake up and give me a smile/it’s pretty cold out here and I have been out here for while/Come on Jane get on your feet again/Don’t let the daylight show your age”). ‘Down the River’ is meanwhile an acoustic ballad, with hummed gospel-style backing vocals, which has Bechtolsheimer, looking back with regret on his own history and with shaky insecurity towards a hopefully drug-free future (“Where do you run /where do you hide when the bottle is empty and you’re thirsty inside ?”) ‘Old Britannia’ unfolds like a three act drama, taking its listener in a running time of just over 10 minutes from harrowing addiction to slow recovery to ultimate redemption. ‘We are Catfish’ is one of the stand-out albums of the years. With its strong anti-drugs message, but also wry acknowledgement that sobriety carries its own uncertainties as well as rewards, ‘Old Britannia’ is also one of its best singles.

Track Listing:-
1 Old Britannia
2 Come On Jane
3 Down The River
4 Video Old Britannia

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Interview (2008)
Hey Negrita - Interview
At a show in Glasgow, John Clarkson speaks to acclaimed country/blues outfit Hey Negrita about their third album 'You Can Kick', line-up changes and renewed sense of energy and creativity
Interview (2006)
Interview (2005)

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Oran Mor, Glasgow, 17/6/2008
Hey Negrita - Oran Mor, Glasgow, 17/6/2008
After a difficult year in which two of its principal members quit, John Clarkson at Oran Mor in Glasgow watches the new line-up of previously melancholic London-based blues/country rockers Hey Negrita play a blistering set fused with a new found spirit of optimism
Academy, Manchester, 28/10/2006


Burn the Whole Place Down (2009)
Energetic and fresh-sounding acoustic reworkings of old material on latest album from London-based country/blues outfit, Hey Negrita
You Can Kick (2008)
Rope (2008)
Nine To Five (2006)
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The Buzz Above (2006)
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